22 Mar 2023

Lewis and Laurence on the imprecatory psalms

At The Gospel Coalition Trevin Wax has written on What C. S. Lewis Got Wrong About the Cursing Psalms. While Lewis's writings carry insights appreciated by generations of Christians, he nevertheless questioned the propriety of using the imprecatory psalms:

Lewis thought these psalms “devilish,” naive, “diabolical,” given to “pettiness” and “vulgarity.” He believed their “vindictive hatred” to be contemptible—full of “festering, gloating, undisguised” passions that can in no way be “condoned or approved.”

 As a corrective to Lewis, Wax recommends Trevor Laurence's new book, Cursing with God: The Imprecatory Psalms and the Ethics of Christian Prayer, published last November by Baylor University Press:

21 Mar 2023

Psalm 150: Sweelinck

Who could possibly tire of listening to Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck's choral arrangement of Psalm 150?

20 Mar 2023

Martha and the psalms of lament

Everyone remembers Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead as recounted in John 11. Although this episode is found in the New Testament, the dialogue between Jesus and Martha reflects the structure of the psalms of lament. This is the thesis of the late biblical scholar Gail R. O'Day in a remarkable article to which my wife alerted me last week, Martha: Seeing the Glory of God. (If you set up a free account, you can "borrow" this ebook for one hour.)

13 Mar 2023

Psalms of Grace

As more and more evangelical protestants are discovering the liturgical riches of the Psalms, new collections of sung psalmody are constantly being produced, sometimes by denominations and sometimes by single congregations. Psalms of Grace falls into the latter category, having been created by Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, a neighbourhood of Los Angeles. Grace Community Church is an independent megachurch with more than 8,000 members and an expansive campus including a Spanish-language congregation, a seminary, a bookstore, and a production company. Its longtime pastor, John MacArthur, has had an enduring radio ministry called Grace to You. The congregation has recently produced two liturgical collections, Hymns of Grace and Psalms of Grace

As I've observed before, it is unusual for a single congregation to produce its own hymnal and highly unusual for one to produce a metrical psalter. The resources needed for such projects are generally beyond what a congregation can manage on its own. By contrast, a denomination can pool the resources of multiple congregations to compile hymnals and psalters. The successive Psalter Hymnals of the Christian Reformed Church are probably the best known examples, as is the Trinity Psalter Hymnal, which was put together by two co-operating denominations. Two years ago I reviewed New Psalter: Psalms for the Church, the work of Grace Immanuel Bible Church in Florida. Now it's time to evaluate Psalms of Grace.

21 Feb 2023

The Tennents' Seedbed Psalter

During my visit to Trinity School for Ministry last week, the Very Rev. Dr. Henry L. "Laurie" Thompson III, was kind enough to present me with a bound copy of the Seedbed Psalter, a metrical psalter compiled by Julie and Timothy Tennent. Thompson is retired Dean President of Trinity and associate professor of liturgical studies. Nearly two years ago I reviewed the Seedbed Psalter. It is an online open-source metrical psalter containing multiple helps to enable congregations to sing the Psalms to familiar hymn tunes. Julie Tennent is a keyboard musician and composer who did the bulk of the work on it. Her husband Timothy is president of Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky, the largest Wesleyan seminary in North America.

Incidentally, neighbouring Asbury University has been in the news due to a revival amongst the students in the form of a 24-hour worship service that has been going on for nearly two weeks and is set to end in a few days.

20 Feb 2023

Metrical psalmody in Pennsylvania

Last week I was privileged to speak at two educational institutions in the Pittsburgh area, Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge and Geneva College in Beaver Falls. Trinity is an independent Anglican seminary that serves the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), along with overseas Anglican provinces. On wednesday, 15 February, I spoke twice at Trinity. During the morning I spoke on "Ideology and Idolatry," the topic of my first book. In the evening, I turned to my work with the Psalms, speaking on "Geneva in England: Singing the Psalms in Metre." My talk covered some of the same material on which I spoke last May at Calvin University, but this time I focussed more on the Sternhold & Hopkins Psalter of 1562 and the Tate & Brady "New Version" Psalter of 1696. These, of course, were used in public worship in the Church of England until the end of the 18th century. Most contemporary Anglicans are unaware that their forebears ever sang metrical psalmody.

7 Feb 2023

Le Psautier de Genève 1729

In recent months I have made the acquaintance of Philippe Lacombe, a Frenchman who maintains a blog devoted to the Genevan Psalter, along with an associated Twitter account. He recently published a hard-bound edition of the 1729 French version of the Genevan Psalter, a copy of which I have just obtained. It contains a preface by Lacombe, an index of the Psalms, an index of Psalms using the same tunes, and the 150 Psalms themselves. This is from the preface, which I have translated into English:

Put to rhyme by the poet Clément Marot and the reformer Theodore Beza between 1539 and 1562, the 150 Psalms of the Bible were made available to the Reformed churches for liturgical singing in protestant worship. The definitive version of the psalter was published in 1587.

18 Jan 2023

An English version of the Dorz/Moldoveanu Psalter?

Having recently received a copy of the Dorz/Modoveanu Psalter from my friend Eugen Tămaș, who is visiting the United States from his native Romania, I am quite taken with a collection that came into existence through the fires of persecution. Cântările Psalmilor has just come out in a second expanded edition and appears poised to spread the liturgical practice of psalm-singing amongst the evangelical Christians in that country. I myself have come up with three English-language versifications to fit the melodies of Nicolae Moldoveanu, the centenary of whose birth was observed last year. 

Nevertheless, there are obstacles in the way of rendering a metrical psalter from one language into another, as I discovered in my own work with the Genevan Psalter. Let me give you an example. Here is Psalm 23 from Cântările Psalmilor:

17 Jan 2023

A gift of God born of suffering: Cântările Psalmilor

Shortly before Christmas, I received in the mail the new and expanded edition of the Romanian-language metrical psalter, Cântările Psalmilor (Songs of the Psalms). This was a gift from Eugen Tămaș, who has spearheaded this project. During one of our online conversations, he asked me to review the collection, which I am taking up now. But before I do so, I must confess to having little knowledge of the Romanian language, aside from picking out familiar words that are cognates with such other romance languages as French, Spanish, and Portuguese, all of which I have studied at one time or another. Nevertheless, although I may not be the best person to post a detailed review, I can tell you about what is in the volume, and what makes it distinctive.

10 Jan 2023

Psałterz Poznański: Psalm 124

I love the work that the good people behind Psałterz Poznański are doing to render the Psalms in singable form. Their latest offering is Genevan Psalm 124, as sung by Agata Polaszek in a style reminiscent of the Canadian-American popular singer Joni Mitchell. Below the recording you will find links to four pdf documents: the music and guitar chords in the key of C, the Polish text with guitar chords in C, the music and guitar chords in the key of D, and the text with chords in D.

Psałterz Poznański does not post a new psalm performance all that often, but when they do, it's always worth hearing. Niech Bóg rozwija swoje królestwo w Polsce poprzez śpiewanie psalmów! May God advance his kingdom in Poland through singing the Psalms!

12 Dec 2022

Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs

Two passages in Paul's letters make reference to the liturgical triad of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. These are Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19. Here is the first: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God." And the second: "addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart." What is meant by these terms?

Some people think they know. One of these is R. Scott Clark of The Heidelblog, where he posted on the topic a decade ago: Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs in the Septuagint. Clark argues that these terms reflect categories in the Greek Septuagint (LXX) translation of the Old Testament, on which the New Testament authors relied for virtually all of their Scripture quotations. Here are his categories:

2 Dec 2022

The Bay Psalm Book of 1640

For Christmas 2009 my wife gave me a copy of the 1903 facsimile edition of the Bay Psalm Book of 1640, the first book to be published in the English-speaking colonies in the New World. Although I mentioned it briefly in this blog at the time, I did not comment any further on the volume. Given that it is nearly 120 years old, it is in remarkably good condition, although only one side survives of the open-ended box it came in. An introduction to this edition was written by one Wilberforce Eames (1855-1937), a self-taught librarian and scholar known as the "Dean of American Bibliographers."

30 Nov 2022

A Trilha de Cantuária: culto e reforma

My recent post on The Canterbury Trail: worship and reformation has been translated into Portuguese and posted at Lecionário: A Trilha de Cantuária: culto e reforma. An excerpt follows the Portuguese translation immediately below.

Meu post recente sobre The Canterbury Trail: worship and reformation foi traduzido para o português e postado no Lecionário: A Trilha de Cantuária: culto e reforma. Um trecho:

Webber não me levou ao anglicanismo per se, muito menos a uma comunhão anglicana, uma invenção de meados do século XIX. Mas ler seus livros me ajudou a entender que até alguns dos reformadores do século 16 erraram, especialmente no que diz respeito às liturgias históricas da Igreja. Em qualquer esforço para reformar a igreja, os pretensos reformadores devem diferenciar entre o que pertence legitimamente à tradição da qual são herdeiros e o que são acréscimos antibíblicos. Isso requer conhecimento de como era a igreja antiga e como ela adorava o Deus trino. Infelizmente, os reformadores não tiveram acesso às fontes mais antigas que conhecemos hoje.

Leia o artigo inteiro aqui.

24 Nov 2022

Psalms of Grace: another congregational psalter project

The Rev. John F. MacArthur is the long-time pastor of Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California, USA and has a radio and television ministry called Grace to You. After decades of ministry, he and his congregation now have an interest in incorporating sung psalmody into their liturgy. Here is MacArthur talking about their newly produced metrical psalter: Pastor John MacArthur Talks About Psalms of Grace. I hope to obtain a copy of this collection at some point.

17 Nov 2022

Good news and appeal for help

A sample of our work (click to enlarge)
As promised, I am privileged to share some good news concerning my Genevan Psalter project of which some of you may already be aware. I was recently informed by the Priscilla and Stanford Reid Trust that I have been awarded a second grant of CDN$2,200 enabling me to hire Michael Owens to format my texts for the Psalms to the Genevan melodies as arranged by Jacques Pierre Bekkers and Jacob Kort in preparation for publication. This comes the year after an earlier award of the same amount from the Reid Trust. I am grateful for this concrete expression of confidence in my ongoing work. However, we are still short approximately CDN$3,500 of the total cost of this work.

Thus we need your help. If you would be interested in making a financial contribution to completing this project, please make your donation via Global Scholars Canada. GSC's page for giving can be found here. Once you are in the page, scroll down to the heading marked DONATION DETAILS, and then choose one of the options under FUND. Americans may donate through our sister organization in the US. Please let me know if you have contributed, and I will be pleased to acknowledge you in the published psalter, unless you prefer otherwise.

Thank you so much!

15 Nov 2022

Praise God in his sanctuary: recovering the Psalms

Although evangelical protestants stopped singing the Psalms some two centuries ago, there is so much good news to share with respect to efforts to reverse this sad trend. Here is a recap, along with the promise of fresh news which I will share later this week:

  1. I have been heartened to see evangelical Christians in Romania acquiring an enthusiasm for singing the Psalms in their liturgies. The Dorz/Moldoveanu Psalter represents a considerable amount of work to make the Psalms accessible to ordinary Christians as they worship the triune God in their sanctuaries. That this is occurring within one of the heartlands of Orthodoxy is remarkable.
  2. As reported in Christianity Today, and as I pointed out below, Jesse and Leah Roberts, who call themselves Poor Bishop Hooper, recently completed their composition and performance of music to which we might sing the Psalms.
  3. This year Michael Owens published his encyclopædic Treasury of Psalms and Hymns, Revised, containing all 150 Psalms and so much more.
  4. Also this year, a Spanish-language edition of the Genevan Psalter was revised and republished, putting sung psalmody in the hands of the huge numbers of speakers of this language around the world.
  5. Then there is Psalms for the Church, the project of a single independent congregation, Grace Immanuel Bible Church in Jupiter, Florida. Imagine if all the independent evangelical congregations in North America were to use this treasury!
  6. And, of course, we have the wonderful through-composed Psalms of David Erb at New Saint Andrew's College.
  7. I will soon have good news to share about my own Genevan Psalter project, which represents a decades-long effort to put this historic psalter into the hands of English-speaking Christians around the world.

I pray for the day when every church congregation in every tradition sings the biblical Psalms simply as a matter of course. When that day arrives, it will no longer be a matter of whether to sing the Psalms but rather of how to sing them. And there will be a lot to choose from. May the Lord hasten the arrival of this day.

St. Bonaventure's adaptation of the Psalms

St. Bonaventure
I recently discovered something called the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary, ascribed to the 13th-century Italian bishop and theologian St. Bonaventure. It consists of a reworking of the biblical Psalms to emphasize Mary. For example, Psalm 1:

Blessed is the man that cherishes thy name, Virgin Mary, thy grace will strengthen his soul. As a garden watered by springs of living water, thou wilt multiply in that soul the sweetest fruits of justice.

The archived version I linked to above was translated and edited by the Rev. John Cumming, DD, and published by the British Reformation Society in 1852. If such material seems an odd fit for the publisher, we need only read Cumming's preface for his motive in bringing it into print in the English language:

14 Nov 2022

Poor Bishop Hooper's Everypsalm project

Christianity Today carries an article about the completion of one couple's pandemic-era project to sing through all the psalms and post them on their YouTube channel: 150 Weeks of Composing Psalms Reaches Its Finale. An excerpt:

For the past three years, Jesse and Leah Roberts—who perform as the duo Poor Bishop Hooper—have sung every word of every psalm and are hoping to help revive widespread interest in the singing of Scripture. . . .

For the past three years, the Psalms have been musical and spiritual sustenance for the Robertses. Since January 2020, they have written an original song every week, releasing the new recordings Wednesdays on YouTube and music streaming sites.

They finish their collection of musical settings for the psalms with Psalm 150, which releases on November 9. The modern-day psalter is meant as a resource for Christians and churches.

The Robertses' Everypsalm project can be found here. Their YouTube channel is here: Poor Bishop Hooper.

Here is the project finale: Psalm 150:

8 Nov 2022

Psalm 23 (Moldoveanu) in English

After hearing a Romanian congregation singing the Traian Dorz/Nicolae Moldoveanu version of Psalm 23, I decided to come up with an English version to fit Moldoveanu's music. Here it is: